Lily Mitchell, of Bettendorf, Iowa, has achieved the Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouts, by spreading the word and advocating for invisible illnesses within her school community. Invisible illnesses impact the body in ways that cannot by seen on the outside, yet their effects most often lead to pain or personal obstacles. Examples of invisible illness include anxiety, colorblindness, exercise intolerance, or POTS. Through a video created and presented at her high school, Lily gave her classmates an educational view of invisible illnesses and how they can affect the lives of students. Lily created the video using interviews from students who have an invisible illness or who have had one in the past. She also interviewed adults who gave advice to students who might be struggling with an invisible illness.
When asked about the connections and inspiration for her project, Lily said, “I have struggled with an invisible illness for five years now. I knew that I couldn’t be the only one struggling with an invisible illness and I had to do something to help others share their story. I wanted my project to show the good, the bad, and the ugly of an invisible illness and overall I wanted to educate others.”
Lily’s project will continue to be used by students and educators alike for school years to come, with the goal of spreading awareness, minimizing stigma, and allowing students to feel comfortable sharing their experiences with Invisible Illnesses.
A Girl Scout Gold Award project must tackle a broad spectrum of important issues and a young woman who has earned her Gold Award has become a community leader in the truest sense.
Read what Lily has to say about her project and the value of Girl Scouts!
How long have you been a Girl Scout?
I have been a Girl Scout my entire life! My sister was a Girl Scout before I was and my mom led the troop meetings which meant I was at all of the meetings from the time I came along. My mom has continued as my leader through each year and my sister has too!
What do you love about Girl Scouting?
I love everything about Girl Scouts. I love that I can make new friends and see new girls walk in all the time, I think it really helps me be more social. I love that Girl Scouts has been a part of my life and that despite anything I may have been going through I know that there will always be girls to come back to on Thursday, girls who love me for who I am!
What inspired your Gold Award project?
I was inspired to create my Gold Award Project because of one simple fact, everyone is unique, and everyone’s story matters! Sometimes we forget to think about how others feel, by the things we say, what we choose to act on, and how we work with others. But I wanted to inspire others to stand outside the shadows of whatever they may be facing and to share their story. Because even when it feels like you are alone, most times there is someone else out there who understands at least a part of what you might be feeling. I have an invisible illness, it began affecting my body in the 7th grade and I went from being an extremely active, healthy girl who loved to run for cross country to the girl who had to quit because she nearly passed out and doctors just didn’t know why. I have an extremely rare, newly researched illness called exercise intolerance. It is so rare that there is hardly any research done on it, and even less patients. Exercise intolerance negatively affects my ability to exercise because it blocks my muscles ability to absorb oxygen from the blood stream and then use it to make energy. This process would normally sustain a person’s ability to exercise at any rate or speed for a long time but for me, my muscles can’t make their own energy quickly enough to sustain the exercise so physically it isn’t possible to continue. But now, it not only affects my ability to exercise, it affects my ability to do any activity during a normal day. But I knew that I wasn’t the only one struggling with an Invisible Illness. So I decided to do something about it.
What role has Girl Scouts played in your life?
Through all of the doctor visits and the good days Girl Scouts has given me an outlet, a place to have friends and to lead where no one is going to judge me for the things that I might not be able to do. Instead I live each week with excitement for Thursday’s and for the weekend camping trips with some of my most cherished friends. It not only gives me an outlet, but it gives a place to use the abilities that I do have. I can lead girls of all ages, and to be able to do that, I don’t have to run! All I need is a little bit of love and compassion for the girls I’m working with.
What is your next step after earning your Gold Award? Are you going to college? If so, where and what will you be studying?
Currently I am working to build a future in my education. I want to be a doctor more than anything and I can’t wait to serve others in so many more ways! Girl Scouts has given me the courage and the confidence to be inspired to strive for my dreams and I couldn’t be more excited! I have been doing research on different colleges in the area and I am still undecided. But I know that wherever I go, Girl Scouts and all that it has given me, will follow me!
Girl Scout Gold Award
Since 1916, Girl Scouts have been making meaningful, sustainable change in their communities and around the world. The Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn, acknowledges the power behind each recipient’s dedication to not only empowering and bettering herself, but also to making the world a better place for others. These young women are courageous leaders and visionary change makers. They are our future, and it looks bright!
The steps to becoming a Gold Award Girl Scout are rooted in the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. To achieve this honor, a girl must:
• Choose an issue she cares about.
• Investigate everything she can about the issue.
• Get help by inviting others to support and take action with her.
• Create a plan that achieves sustainable and measurable impact.
• Present her plan and get feedback from the Girl Scout council.
• Take action to carry out her plan.
• Educate and inspire others with what she experienced.
• Complete at least 80 hours working on the project.
Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois
Through the Girl Scout Program, girls learn to face challenges head-on, embrace failure as a learning opportunity, create lasting relationships, and find dynamic solutions to social issues—all while building the skills and courage they need to take the lead every day and empower themselves for life. To join or volunteer, visit www.GirlScoutsToday.org.